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Author Interview with D. Nkwetato Tamonkia

Author Interview with D. Nkwetato Tamonkia

I had the pleasure of sitting down with the esteemed author, D. Nkwetato Tamonkia, to discuss his impressive career in ESL teaching and his latest ventures in the industry. With 25 years of experience under his belt, teaching students from various language backgrounds in both formal and private settings, D. Nkwetato Tamonkia has become a trusted resource for language learners around the world. As the founder of Dee’s English Lessons and DNT Academy, he has helped countless individuals prepare for standardized tests and improve their language skills. In our interview, we delved into his passion for teaching, his insights on effective language learning strategies, and his plans for the future in education consulting and material development. Join me as we explore the world of ESL education through the eyes of a true expert.

What inspired you to start writing?
I’d say my inspiration came from the urge to give back to the industry that has been part and parcel of my life for more than two decades. I have been teaching English as a second language since 1998. With retirement around the corner, the inspiration is to leave something behind, something people can point to and say, “He used to…” You know just a souvenir, especially for those who know me as a teacher.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
At this point of my life I don’t yet consider myself as a full-time writer. I am still a teacher. I am an aspiring writer. When I become a retired teacher and a full-time writer I will probably be able to see an alternative to writing.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
M-m-m that was way back in college in the early 90s when we wrote articles and essays. Friends told me I had a ‘smart’ pen. Not the smart we know today in smart technology. They just meant I had a good writing skill. From that moment I started harboring plans of one day becoming a writer. I think this is the dawn of that day as I see my first books published.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I was a teenager, in Cameroon there was a popular radio news program called Cameroon Calling. TV was a luxury back then. Social media was non-existent. Radio was the big thing then. The program aired every Sunday morning. It had a team of the most eloquent journalists of our time back then. They gave reports on burning issues in the society. They had a kind of English language speaking style with power that could move mountains. Listening to them every Sunday morning was like listening to a sermon in the church. Their reports were so powerful that the government could not stand having the team around. In typical government style, the team and the radio program were dismantled bit by bit until nothing was left. Some fled the country.
That was the period of my life when I realized how powerful language was and how eloquence had the power to create impact.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
If I could, I would give up social media distractions. I think social media takes an incredible amount of our time nowadays and unfortunately, a majority of that time spent on social media is on distractions that don’t really matter much. So, at some point you feel like, okay this is it, I am quitting social media. Then you realize there are some useful links and people you can connect with thanks to social media and you stay. So, social media is like this drug you know for sure what it is doing to you, yet from time to time you go get some.
So if I could give up social media, I would probably have more time to focus on my books.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Yes I did once. In 2015 I thought about publishing under a pseudonym then changed my mind. That book is still on my hard drive unpublished. I am still thinking about it.
I once heard from a wise man that some of the best stories die as manuscripts in the drawer, unread because they couldn’t make it to the publishing house.
I think when some writers don’t want stories to end like that in the drawer they may choose to use a pseudonym.

What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?
In my opinion, success is finally completing a project set by oneself, not by others. That is, if I say I am going to get a new certificate this year and by December that certificate is in my hands, that’s success. Set a goal and achieve it. My goal doesn’t have to reflect the goals of other people or the society at large.

Unfortunately, in modern society success has been turned into a stereotype, a standard pattern that is defined by the society as success. For example: There is a standard pattern for success in sports: success means being an Olympic Gold medalist or holder of the World Cup or some championship. In the movie industry, success means winning an Oscar, in business success means owning several companies, being CEO, even as a simple family head, wife, husband, father, mother, everyone around you still tries to define what your success should look like. etc etc. I mean, if those individuals who get to those great heights had those goals set by themselves, that is success for them. But when every one is sort of under the pressure to have success as defined by society or other people, I find something seriously wrong with that.
To me, success, like beauty, like love, like failure, should all be relative and personalized rather than stereotyped.

What does literary success look like to you?
Creating impact.
If I see my writing impacting target readers, I call that literary success.
My target readers for now are English language learners and teachers, especially those preparing for the standardized English test called IELTS. The major objective of the book is to help those candidates get better scores in the test. If a candidate gets to achieve better scores thanks to any of my books, I call that literary success.

Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?
Writing is not yet a full-time career for me. When I retire from teaching ESL it will probably become a full-time job. Nobody wants a boring life at retirement, right?

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A lion.
King of the jungle.
I am a Leo by birth (August 5th) and a firm believer in horoscope readings. So I believe I am a true Leo.

If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Oh this is an excellent question.
What I would do would be to keep a good recording of interesting experiences that are very hard to recall in detail now. When I was young, I had a wide range of exciting experiences and I can barely recall the details right now. Back then there was no social media, there were no smartphones, no digital cameras, etc. Storing information was mainly in our natural memory. Sometimes, when I want to relive my childhood life I have to rely on some very old blurry pictures or stories from friends and family.
I always imagine what a big story book I would have today if I had kept a good record of all those good days. I do encourage young people to keep a journal of their activities especially as they have an abundance of tools for that now but you know, they don’t see the value of it right now.

Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?
Yes, that is happening now as my book sales improve. Students who now have copies of the books are making comments. Some follow me on social media so they send me messages about the books they bought. It is actually a very good feeling to hear from readers.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do read my book reviews if I know where they are. The books are on so many platforms. I am excited to read them. I still remember the first review I got. It was on Barnes and Noble when the first book was published. Thank God it was not a negative review. He-he-he.
I don’t have a bad book review yet. Or may be there is one somewhere that I don’t know yet. I don’t worry too much about that because, I think, as a writer it is bound to happen. One man’s favorite book is another man’s worst book. I think all art is like that. So when negative reviews do show up, I will take them bravely.

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
This is quite tricky, especially when writing in my niche – ESL, because I am writing in English for persons using English as a foreign language. I have to think all the time whether the reader is able to understand what I mean even if it is just a simple line of instruction like “spot the odd word from the following word groups.” If the reader doesn’t even understand what and odd word is, then it means I am not successfully communicating. So, to take care of the reader, sometimes I have to use examples to illustrate what a particular line of instruction means.
While doing this, I also have to guard against losing the beauty of the English language style of communicating, which I also want my reader to be able to learn. A good writer of ESL books therefore must consider striking a safe balance between the two ends.

How do you deal with poor reviews?
They are a great resource when the revised edition of a book is written. Every author should cherish negative reviews.
However, it is important to note that there is a difference between a useful negative review and a useless negative review.

“I don’t like this book because it doesn’t have enough exercises for practice and the author doesn’t provide answers to the questions in the book.” This is a useful negative review.

“Crappy book. Don’t buy.” This is a useless negative review.

How do you handle literary criticism?
Literary criticism is healthy as long as it is constructive. Every intellectual should welcome it. We teach students critical thinking so that they can be able to see a work of art critically.

Describe a typical writing day.
There is perfect tranquility around me. Everyone is out of the house or asleep, All noisy electronic devices (laundry machines, moisturizers, ACs, etc.) are switched off. Social media platforms are all muted. It’s raining seriously outside and the sound of raindrops and wind, have drowned all other noise I usually hear from my study like the clattering of the train that passes near my apartment building every five minutes. I have my plastic cup full of apple cider vinegar warm water next to me waiting for a sip.

When I do get this setting described above, I am in my writing paradise and can write for hours non-stop. But I don’t have to tell you how hard it is to achieve that setting in today’s society when you are a teacher, a family head and live in a metropolitan city like Shanghai, do I? Something always comes up to interrupt that golden moment.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Years, in the case of the books I have written so far. I started writing them in 2018. They got published in 2024. For some professional writers who already master all the tricks of writing, it may take a few months to finish writing a book. Also, it is important to note that, to finish writing a book is just one early step. Getting it published is a long walk. Some people finish writing a book in a few months but can’t get it published in one year.

What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?
Three things:
1. What kind of readers do you want to write for?
2. What will your content do for them?
3. Are you sure they have that problem and want it solved?

How you feel about your content is not necessarily how readers will feel about it. Think twice.

How many books have you written?
Three:
– Foundation English Vocabulary Workbook
– IELTS Speaking Test Guide
– IELTS Writing Workbook

Do you find it more challenging to write the first book in a series or to write the subsequent novels?
In my opinion, writing subsequent books in the series is more challenging because at that stage you are low on energy, you are most likely trying to work at the demand of your readers. When you write the first book you are full of energy and ideas you want to put out there.
It is like those TV series with several seasons. Season one is usually the best. In subsequent seasons, when you watch critically you can easily see that the story line is becoming far-fetched.

What is the title of your newest release?
IELTS Writing Workbook

What makes your latest book an exciting read?
The book is part of a series of five books. Those who already have Foundation English Vocabulary Workbook and IELTS Speaking Test Guide, are excited to buy the Writing workbook because the style is the same. Besides, a candidate preparing for that test needs to be prepared equally for all four sections of the test which are Speaking, Reading, Writing and Listening.

From what I have said, you can guess what the books still to be published in the series are. My target readers will have the complete package when I will get the reading and listening books published. Hopefully, that will be done by the end of this year if I don’t run short of resources.

I need the first three published books to sell well so I can have enough energy and motivation to finish the rest of the books in the series.

What platforms do you like to use to promote your book and why?
Medium: Because it has a great community of intellectuals and people who love reading and writing. The comments they make on a piece of writing are usually valuable comments that make one grow and improve. This is a rare quality platforms have nowadays, especially extremely popular social media platforms where a majority of comments are intended to mock, bash or ridicule people.
LinkedIn: For more or less the same reason as Medium. I wish they could fix their customer support. My account on Linkedin recently got hacked and I can’t get it back until now. It has really changed my impression about the platform.
Weibo: It is a Chinese micro-blogging platform. It can be compared to X. What keeps me there is the big number of users and the age range of the users – people of my generation.
Author Access: I have just been introduced to this platform and so far I am loving it. I like the fact that they are genuinely focused on things authors need. I think many authors don’t know the platform yet. When they do and realize the worth of Author Access, the owners of the platform will be overwhelmed.
Lulu: Last but not least I must mention Lulu which I think is the smoothest book publishing platform out there. That’s why all my books can be found online there on Lulu. They really understand what an author needs.

What are the words you live by?
In one of my recent interviews, I shared one personal quote about life which is: “The man you think is mad, thinks you are mad.” It is a line that helps me each time I feel judgemental. In my opinion, if we think from the other person’s perspective each time we judge, we can be better humans than we currently are.

What is your favorite quote from your book?
“Practice makes perfect.” It is what I say each time my students feel discouraged. They are learning English as a foreign language and it is not easy for them to understand certain structures. So I tell them not to give up. I tell them, the more practice they do the better they will get at what ever language skill they are learning.

You can find out more about D. Nkwetato Tamonkia here>>

A Book by D. Nkwetato Tamonkia
Want to read some of D. Nkwetato Tamonkia’s work? Keep reading to learn about IELTS Writing Workbook.

IELTS Writing Workbook is a 5-part book that helps IELTS candidates practice the language points that matter in the writing section of the test. The author uses the teacher – student interactive style to walk the reader step-by-step through the entire writing test. Conscious of the fact that the target readers of the book are users of English as a second language, the author uses simplified English to explain the various components of writing in Task 1 and 2 for both General Training IELTS and Academic Training IELTS.

Part one focuses on a general overview of the Writing test, grading criteria and things candidates should note as they prepare for the test.

Part two focuses on General Training IELTS Task 1 Writing.

Part three is about Academic Training IELTS Task 1 Writing.

Part four focuses on Task 2 Writing.

Part five is full of useful tips candidates can use to boost their writing skills.

There is much emphasis on vocabulary in the book with lists of carefully chosen words, phrases and sentences provided for readers to practice writing with. In the same light, the author provides lots of exercises for readers to practice on their own, with a partner or in group study, like in a classroom setting. The candidate using this book is therefore advised not to study and practice alone.

This book is best for candidates who still have many months of preparation time before the actual test. It is not a last minute solution or magic wand to getting high scores in the writing test. Teachers or private tutors using the book to prepare candidates for the test will find the material in the book perfect for lesson planning, classroom activity and homework.

Happy writing!
Purchase IELTS Writing Workbook here>>

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